Thomas E. FitzGerald
9. AN ERA OF TRANSITIONS
The year 1970 marked the beginning of two major controversies that profoundly affected the development of the Orthodox Church in the United States and marked a transition to a new stage of growth. The Russian Orthodox Metropolia was granted autocephalous status by the Patriarchate of Moscow in 1970. This meant that the Metropolia, from then on, known as the Orthodox Church in America, had been given recognition to be a fully independent, self-governing local church. This dramatic decision, however, was not recognized by all. During the same period, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese became embroiled in discussions over greater use of vernacular languages in worship. While both issues created much discord lasting well over a decade, they were expressions of deeper concerns over the permanent witness and mission of Orthodox Christianity in the United States.
THE AUTOCEPHALY QUESTION
The position and status of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia were dramatically altered by the political and ecclesiastical developments in the Soviet Union, especially after the death of Patriarch Tikhon in 1925. The October revolution of 1917 not only affected the relationship between church and state in the Soviet Union but also dealt a profound blow to the Russian Orthodox communities in the United States and Western Europe. The loss of financial support, combined with crisis in leadership and schisms, shook the Russian Orthodox Church in America throughout the 1920s. Under the leadership of Metropolitan Platon (Rozdestvensky), the Metropolia in 1924 declared itself to be «temporally autonomous» from its mother church, the Patriarchate of Moscow. This action was taken chiefly because many in America felt that communication with the official church in the Soviet Union was unreliable. Moreover, by 1933, the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Metropolia were refusing to give any pledge of loyalty to the government in the Soviet Union.272
When attempts to reconcile the Metropolia to its mother church failed, the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Moscow, led by the acting locum tenens of the Patriarchate, Metropolitan Sergius, declared on January 5, 1935, that the Metropolia was schismatic. Despite this bold action, the majority of the clergy and laity of the Metropolia's approximately 250 parishes remained faithful to the leadership of Metropolitan Platon.273
In the period following World War II, there were attempts to reconcile the Metropolia with the Moscow Patriarchate. While the Metropolia recognized the «spiritual authority» of the Patriarch of Moscow and commemorated him in liturgical services, no formal reconciliation took place. In fact, the Patriarchate of Moscow reaffirmed its interdict upon the Metropolia in 1947.274
This means that from 1935 to 1970, the Metropolia was in a state of formal schism from its mother church. Given the difficult situation for the church in the Soviet Union, however, the Patriarchate of Moscow was not in a position to press its concerns. At the same time, the Metropolia continued to have a type of de facto recognition from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its Archdiocese in America. As early as 1930, the Metropolia received its sacramental chrism from the Patriarchate of Constantinople by means of the archdiocese.275 More recently, evidence of the close relationship can be seen in the episcopal ordination of Father Theodosius Lazar as the Metropolia's bishop of Alaska on 6 May 1967. In addition to four bishops of the Metropolia, two bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople's American jurisdictions participated in the ordination.276
Some leaders in the Metropolia during the late 1950s and early 1960s proposed that it formally petition to enter into communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Based upon canon law and ecclesiastical practice, the Patriarchate affirmed jurisdiction over the developing church in America. However, the Patriarchate was not always in a position to act upon its claims. Some in the Metropolia believed that its irregular status could be cleared through formalizing the informal relationship that had developed with Constantinople since 1924.277
Perhaps recognizing these tendencies in the Metropolia, the Patriarchate of Moscow began in 1966 to intensify its opposition to those Russian Orthodox jurisdictions in America and Europe that were not in communion with the Church of Russia. As part of this opposition, the Patriarchate of Moscow asked other auto-cephalous churches to cease contact with those jurisdictions that it considered schismatic. The principal jurisdictions with which the Moscow Patriarchate was concerned were the Metropolia, the Synod Abroad, and Russian Orthodox exarchate of Western Europe, which had entered into formal communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople 1931. Clearly, what was at stake were the Pan-Orthodox conciliarity and cooperation at the highest level, which had been growing since the first Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1961.278
The Metropolia found itself in a very difficult situation. Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish), the primate of the Metropolia (1965–1968), addressed a Christmas message to all Orthodox patriarchs in 1965–1966. In this letter, the Metropolitan affirmed that the Metropolia simply could not return to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow. He said that «the existence of two very different and often contradictory social structures in America and Russia, and the fundamental distrust we have toward any instruction issued from communist countries, make the submission to the Moscow Patriarchate virtually inconceivable.» In order to support this position further, the Metropolitan noted that church canons disapprove of structures «in which the Christians of one country are submitted to ecclesiastical authority of another state. Even when the political relations between the two states are normal and friendly, the Church which is under the authority of foreign leadership is suspected of being "alien.» »279
Father Alexander Schmemann, the dean of St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary, traveled in May 1966 to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople as the envoy of the bishops of the Metropolia. There, he met with Patriarch Athenagoras. This was the same person who had served as archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in America from 1931 to 1948. Although he was well aware of the situation in America, the Patriarch apparently did not envision the possibility of the Metropolia coming into communion with Constantinople at that time. In fact, Constantinople had only recently relinquished its relationship with the Russian Orthodox Archdiocese of Western Europe. Father Schmemann reported that the Patriarch urged him to encourage the Metropolia to be reconciled with its mother church.280
Metropolitan Ireney planned his own journey to Constantinople and to the other patriarchates in 1967 in order to plead the cause of the Metropolia. However, this plan was thwarted when Patriarch Alexis of Moscow wrote to the heads of the autocephalous churches and urged them not to permit Metropolitan Ireney to officiate at liturgical services in their respective jurisdictions.281
Against the backdrop of these events, new contacts were established between the Metropolia and the Patriarchate of Moscow. While attending the assembly of the World Council of Churches in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968, three representatives of the Metropolia met with Metropolitan Nikodim (Rostov) of the Moscow Patriarchate. At this meeting the Patriarchate broached the topic of autocephaly and, thus, clearly went beyond previous positions regarding the potential status of the Metropolia. Subsequent meetings of representatives from both quarters were held in New York, Geneva, and Tokyo in 1969. Following additional meetings, the final agreement was signed in New York on 31 March 1970 by Metropolitan Nikodim and Metropolitan Ireney. Central to the agreement was a request from the Metropolia to the Patriarchate of Moscow to be recognized formally as an auto-cephalous church.282
The Patriarchate of Moscow lifted its interdiction against the Metropolia on 8 April 1970, which had been in effect since 1935 and reaffirmed in 1947. This action marked the formal end of the schism. On 10 April 1970, the Patriarchate formally issued the Tome of Autocephaly for the «Orthodox Church in America.» This document affirmed that the Patriarchate of Moscow recognized the former Metropolia as one of the self-governing Orthodox churches. It also noted that the exarchate of the Patriarchate of Moscow was abolished, although individual clergy and parishes could choose to remain directly under the Moscow Patriarchate. Finally, it called upon the other autocephalous churches to recognize the new status of the Metropolia as the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America.283
The grant of autocephaly was formally announced at the All-American Council of the Metropolia held on 20–22 November 1970, in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. At this meeting the representatives formally changed the name of their jurisdiction from the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in North America to the Orthodox Church in America.284
In a Message to All Orthodox Christians in America, the council addressed the theme of greater unity. A portion of the message says:
We have the same faith, the same Tradition, the same hope, the same mission. We should then constitute one Church, visibly, organically, fully. Such is the requirement of our Orthodox Faith and we know that always and everywhere the Orthodox Church has existed as one Church. There can, therefore, be no excuse for our jurisdictional divisions, alienation from one another, and parochialism. The removal of such divisions and the organic unity of all Orthodox in America is the goal of our Church and we invite you to become part of the unity.285
While there were indications at least as early as 1965 that autocephaly could be granted to the Metropolia by the Moscow Patriarchate, the actual event set off a new storm of controversy. In a certain sense, the Metropolia had been acting as a de facto autocephalous jurisdiction since 1927, although it was viewed as schismatic by the Patriarchate of Moscow. Thus, by 1970 it seems that the leaders of the Metropolia would not be content with any lesser status, such as autonomy, which would still subordinate the jurisdiction to the Patriarchate of Moscow. The fact that the Patriarchate of Moscow agreed to the granting of autocephaly did regularize the Metropolia in the eyes of its mother church. However, the action did not lead immediately to the resolution of the multiple jurisdictional situation in America. Indeed, the situation appears to have become more complex.
During the first years of its existence, the new Orthodox Church in America took a number of important actions. First, on 9 August 1970, clergy and laity gathered in Kodiak, Alaska, for the solemn services at which the missionary monk Herman of Spruce Island was proclaimed a saint, the first formally recognized in North America.286
Second, the Orthodox Church in America received two other jurisdictions. The Albanian Orthodox Archdiocese under Bishop Stephen (Lasko) became a diocese within the Orthodox Church in America in 1971. This jurisdiction had been associated with the Church of Albania prior to its liquidation by the Communist government.287 The Bulgarian Orthodox diocese under Bishop Kyril (Ionchev) became part of the Orthodox Church in America in 1976. This jurisdiction had been part of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia since 1964.288 These two jurisdictions essentially followed the example of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate, which had become part of the old Metropolia in 1960.289 In agreeing to accept these jurisdictions, the new Orthodox Church in America permitted them to maintain a high degree of autonomy and to maintain their identity as ethnic dioceses.
Finally, at the Fifth Ail-American Council in 1977, the retiring Metropolitan Ireney was succeeded by Bishop Theodosius (Lazor). The new Metropolitan was the first American-born primate of any jurisdiction. The election of the young former bishop of Alaska was viewed as a further sign of the growing indigenous character of the Orthodox Church generally.
THE PAN-ORTHODOX CRISIS
The granting of autocephaly to the former Metropolia by the Patriarchate of Moscow led to discussions within the entire Orthodox world over a number of topics. Chief among these was the topic of how autocephaly is properly granted. Closely associated with this were questions related to the canonical authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the canonical authority of other auto-cephalous churches. Indeed, it seems that the peculiar situation of Orthodoxy in America became the backdrop against which interpretations of history and canon law were discussed.290
Father Alexander Schmemann, one of the leading advocates of autocephaly at the time, spoke of the debate that followed its granting:
The storm provoked by the «autocephaly» of the Orthodox Church in America is probably one of the most meaningful crises in several centuries of Orthodox ecclesiastical history. Or rather it could become meaningful if those who are involved in it were to accept it as a unique opportunity for facing and solving an ecclesiastical confusion which for too long a time was simply ignored by the Orthodox. For if America all of a sudden has become the focus of Orthodox attention and passions, it is because the situation of Orthodoxy here, being the most obvious result of confusion, was bound to reveal sooner or later the true nature and scope of, indeed, a Pan-Orthodox crisis.291
The most significant documents dealing with these issues are the four letters exchanged between the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Patriarchate of Moscow during the years 1970–1971. Even before autocephaly was granted, the patriarchate of Constantinople indicated that it would not recognize this new status for the Metropolia. Yet, these letters provide some insight into the points of agreement and the points of disagreement that characterized the discussions at the time. As can be expected, the letters also reflect some of the emotions of the moment as well as some underdeveloped historical perspectives.292
There are important points of agreement between Constantinople and Moscow regarding the situation in America. First, both agree to the restoration of normal canonical relations between Moscow and the Metropolia. Here, there is a clear recognition that the Metropolia had been in a peculiar situation since 1924.
Second, both Constantinople and Moscow agree on the crucial principle that only one unified Orthodox Church can properly exist in any country. They recognize that canon law demands the unity of a territorial jurisdiction. This point is especially important because it opposes those who promote the multiplicity of jurisdictions in America in order to propagate ethnicity or political ideologies.
Third, both Constantinople and Moscow agree that only an Ecumenical Council will finally confirm the development of a united church in America. Both recognize the importance of the process of preparation for the Great and Holy Council, which is examining a number of themes, including diaspora and autocephaly.
Finally, both Constantinople and Moscow agree that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has a primacy of rank and honor in the church. This affirmation clearly opposes those who believed that Moscow was making an attempt to usurp the rightful place of Constantinople within the Orthodox Church.293
Of course, the four letters also express some serious points of disagreement. First, Constantinople affirms that autocephaly is properly recognized only by an ecumenical council. Until such a council is held, however, Constantinople claims that it has the right to designate a local church to be autocephalous. Moscow, on the other hand, affirms that each autocephalous church has the right to grant canonical independence to one of its parts.
Second, there is disagreement over the development of Orthodoxy in America. Moscow appears to claim canonical authority over the church in America in virtue of the fact that it established the Alaskan mission in 1794. Constantinople does not recognize the absolute right of Moscow over the developing church in America. Constantinople does recognize the reality of overlapping jurisdictions in America, which have created an extraordinary and irregular situation. While not abandoning its own canonical privileges, Constantinople indicates that a clear resolution to the situation cannot come about without the agreement of the various Orthodox churches.294
The action of the Patriarchate of Moscow in granting autocephalous status to the Metropolia/Orthodox Church in America was subsequently recognized by the autocephalous churches of Georgia, Bulgaria, and Poland.295
The action of the Patriarchate of Moscow has not been formally recognized by the autocephalous churches of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus, and Greece. These churches have not broken communion with the Metropolia/Orthodox Church in America. They view the Metropolia/Orthodox Church in America as a jurisdiction that is no longer in a state of schism from its mother church.296
THE LANGUAGE QUESTION
At the very same time that the controversy over autocephaly was developing, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, the largest of the American jurisdictions, also was shaken by debate regarding the use of a fifth-century form of Greek as the principal language of liturgical services. By 1970, English had certainly become the principal language of the vast majority of Greek Orthodox faithful. Most of these were second-, third-, or fourth-generation Americans with some Greek ancestry. Others had entered the Archdiocese after having been raised in different religious traditions. Since the 1950s, English had become the principal language of religious education. By the early 1960s, English was the principal language of administrative meetings. In 1964, the Archdiocesan Clergy-Laity Congress formerly recommended that certain prayers, the Creed, and the Scripture lessons be read in both English and Greek in the Eucharistic Liturgy. This action sanctioned a practice that was already in place in many parishes.297
After serving as primate of the vast Archdiocese for more than a decade, Archbishop Iakovos was well aware of the diversity of its membership, as well as the pastoral needs of his flock. Therefore, in planning for the 1970 Clergy-Laity Congress, the Archbishop himself courageously proposed a reevaluation of the Archdiocese's position on the use of the vernacular in liturgical services:
During the 1970–1980 decade, it will be necessary for us to face the language problem under more demanding and critical circumstances. The two present American-born generations, mixed marriages, the indigenousation of our Church, the educational level of our children, the limited Greek academic preparation of our priests–all these shall demand that our Church proceed in a logical and imperative re-evaluation of our known position in terms of language.298
Even before the more than 1,000 delegates convened in New York for the twentieth Clergy-Laity Congress, the cautious, pastoral approach to the language issue expressed by Archbishop Iakovos came under attack by extremists. These persons claimed that the greater use of English would be a threat to the perpetuation of the Greek language and culture in America.
The archbishop did not bow to the pressures of the extremists. In his keynote address to the congress, he reaffirmed his conviction that greater use of English in the liturgical services was necessary. Furthermore, he proposed the production of a new translation of the liturgy that would contribute to more active participation by the faithful. In his response to the extremists, the archbishop consistently affirmed his own devotion to Greek ideals, culture, and language. Yet, he also affirmed that the Orthodox Christians of Greek descent had a profound obligation to share their faith and their religious heritage with the rest of America:
I believe that our Church, without ceasing to be racially rooted in Greece and religiously in Phanar (the Ecumenical Patriarchate), must accept the fact that America is the place in which God has intended it to grow and bring many more into its fold; and that it has an obligation, without compromising in matters of faith, to adapt itself to the existing conditions and needs, changing in the final analysis even the language, but never its spirit or ethos.299
Under the leadership of the archbishop, the majority of the delegates at the Clergy-Laity Congress subsequently approved the report of the Committee on Liturgical and Linguistic Renewal. This report recognized that people in the vast Archdiocese of North and South America speak a number of vernacular languages, such as Greek, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. It also affirmed that it is important in the Orthodox tradition that the faith, teaching, and liturgies of the church be transmitted to the faithful in the vernacular language. With this in mind, the report recommended that «the Archdiocese permit the use of the vernacular language as needed in Church services in accordance with the judgement of the parish priest in consultation with the bishop.»300
There is no doubt that the modest decision of the Clergy-Laity Congress regarding the use of the vernacular in worship was wholeheartedly approved not only by the delegates in New York but also by the vast majority of pastors and parishioners throughout the Archdiocese. In reality, the decision simply reflected the fact that the vernacular was already being used in one degree or another in many parishes. Moreover, the decision also reflected the deeper reality that the vast majority of parishes of the Archdiocese were serving Americans of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
However, a small but vocal minority criticized the decision of the congress and, in some cases, even distorted its intent. This opposition was led by the Greek language press in the United States, and it was generally supported by the press in Greece. An organization devoted to the «preservation of the Greek language and the Greek Orthodox Church» issued a manifesto that not only rejected the decision of the congress but also called for the replacement of the archbishop. Comprising primarily persons who had opposed the policies of the archbishop for some time, this organization appealed especially to the emotions of recent immigrants. Even the military government of Greece expressed its concern over rumors that the Archdiocese was going to abolish the use of Greek in the liturgical services.301
With the controversy heating up, the synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate met on 31 August 1970 to discuss the resolutions of the congress. Since the Archdiocese is an ecclesiastical province of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, all decisions had to be approved by the patriarch and the synod of bishops.
Following the synod's deliberation, Patriarch Athenagoras addressed a letter to Archbishop Iakovos and one to the clergy and laity of the Archdiocese. Having served as archbishop in America from 1931 to 1948, Patriarch Athenagoras, the president of the synod, had a firsthand understanding of the developing church in America. Well aware of difficulties inherent in the American situation, Patriarch Athenagoras was intent upon preventing any schism in the Archdiocese similar to what he had experienced in the 1930s and 1940s. Both his letters, therefore, commended the leadership of the archbishop and deplored the misunderstandings created by the congress's decision. With regard to the language question, the Patriarch diplomatically affirmed that «the Greek language is and will remain the basic and preeminent liturgical language of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.»302
The words of the Patriarch were certainly designed to end any divisive movement within the Archdiocese, even a movement of a small but vocal minority. He knew very well that the use of English would not only continue but also increase. While they rejected the resolution of the Clergy-Laity Congress, the Patriarch and the synod did not forbid the greater use of the vernacular where appropriate. Such a course of action would have been unthinkable, given the fact the Orthodox tradition has consistently emphasized the value of local languages for the teaching of the faith and for the liturgical services.
The divisive tendencies of some within the Archdiocese and outside it were dramatically aggravated again in 1975. With Archbishop Iakovos still the victim of unscrupulous attacks both in the United States and in Greece, the Patriarchate of Alexandria sent a bishop to the United States as its designated exarch. The presence of this bishop was a direct challenge to the legitimate authority of Archbishop Iakovos. Metropolitan Methodios (Fouyas) of Askoum conducted a number of meetings with defrocked bishops and priests. His attention appears to have been to establish a jurisdiction that would contain the clergy and laity who opposed the policies of Archbishop Iakovos.303
The Patriarchate of Constantinople formally condemned the action of the Church of Alexandria. In insisting that the exarch be withdrawn, Constantinople reaffirmed its canonical authority over the Orthodox in the diaspora. The Patriarchate of Alexandria eventually agreed to the request of Constantinople and withdrew its bishop.304
Despite their immediate negative consequences, all these unfortunate developments appear to have led to some serious reflection about the status, composition, and governance of the Archdiocese. After much discussion both within the Archdiocese and within the Patriarchate of Constantinople, a new organizational charter was approved in 1977. This charter divided the Archdiocese into ten dioceses led by a local bishop. These bishops would meet in synod under the presidency of the archbishop. It is most interesting that the new charter declared that the Archdiocese «serves all Orthodox living in the western hemisphere.» In this broadened mission statement, there is no direct reference either to ethnic background or to language usage. Despite the difficulties over language, which the Archdiocese continued to experience, the words of the charter clearly indicated a more inclusive vision was developing in the Archdiocese.305
THE CHALLENGE TO SCOBA
The debate over autocephaly, the language controversy, and the question of the relationship of the Patriarchate of Constantinople to the church in America were serious issues. These issues troubled not only the various jurisdictions in America but also the various Orthodox churches throughout the world. In the United States, however, the discussions had a chilling effect upon Pan-Orthodox cooperation. In the period between 1970 and 1990, the underlying tensions manifested themselves in the relationship among clergy of the various jurisdictions, in the relationships among the theological schools, and, to some degree, in the work of the grassroots inter-Orthodox organizations. These tensions were fueled by the extreme views coming from partisans on all sides of the discussions.
Although the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the Orthodox Church in America/the Russian Orthodox Metropolia were the two jurisdictions most acutely affected by the controversies, all the jurisdictions were touched by their consequences. Indeed, in the two decades between 1970 and 1990, the thrust toward greater unity appeared to yield to a reaffirmation of jurisdictional distinctiveness.
As one might expect, the organization most seriously damaged by the new situation was the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops. The bishops of SCOBA continued to meet, usually on a yearly basis throughout the period between 1970 and 1990. Yet, there were some notable changes in both the composition and the concerns of SCOBA. The Orthodox Church in America/Metropolia decided not to be represented by its primate. Rather, one of the other diocesan bishops became its SCOBA representative. Many saw this decision as an indication that it had diminished its interest in SCOBA. At the same time, discussions within SCOBA centered primarily upon the development of a new constitution that would somehow take into account the new status of the Orthodox Church in America/Metropolia. Finally, the thrust toward greater Orthodox unity and a provincial synod, which had dominated the agenda of SCOBA from 1965 to 1970, was virtually lost.
In an attempt to strengthen the role of Archbishop Iakovos and his influence as chairman of SCOBA, the Patriarchate of Constantinople designated him as «Patriarchal Exarch Plenipotentiary» in December 1970. He was designated as the person «with the right to preside over consultations and meetings of the Orthodox Canonical Bishops in America for the purpose of commonly examining, deliberating upon, and regulating questions both of specific and inter-Orthodox nature that may on occasion arise in your ecclesiastical life.»306 This authorization, however, appears to have done little to revive the weakened SCOBA. The difficulties that the Archdiocese experienced left Archbishop Iakovos with little time or energy to devote to the cause of Orthodox unity.
A number of significant events during the period between 1970 and 1990 seemed to bear witness to the inability of SCOBA to function even as a consultative body.
First, Metropolitan Philip (Saliba) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese proposed the establishment of a Bilateral Commission, which would bring together representatives from his jurisdiction and the Orthodox Church in America/Metropolia. At its first meeting on 3 March 1981, the commission affirmed that both jurisdictions desired the establishment of one self-governing church in America under the leadership of one synod of bishops. This commission led to greater cooperation between these two jurisdictions in the areas of religious education, theological education, and missions.307
Elected to head the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1966, Metropolitan Philip had become a strong spokesman for greater Orthodox unity. As the leader of the third largest Orthodox jurisdiction in America, he often appeared to present moderate positions in the midst of the discussions about both autocephaly and language. Undoubtedly, one of his greatest contributions was his ability to heal the division among the Syrian Orthodox in 1975. Together with Archbishop Michael (Shaheen), head of the diocese of Toledo, Metropolitan Philip brought together the two jurisdictions, which had been divided since 1934. Canonically associated with the Patriarchate of Antioch, the unified jurisdiction came to be known as the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. This change of name placed less emphasis upon ethnic considerations and folly emphasized the Archdiocese's relationship with the Patriarchate of Antioch.308
Second, the tragic inability of SCOBA to take more seriously the actions of some jurisdictional leaders subtly to oppose greater unity was highlighted very forcefully in a joint Lenten Encyclical published in 1989 by Metropolitan Theodosius of the Orthodox Church in America/Metropolia and Metropolitan Philip. In affirming the need for greater unity, the two bishops said:
It is no secret that Orthodox jurisdictions in this Western hemisphere have developed attitudes and positions which have become an excuse to circumvent unity. Sometimes the excuse is the difference in liturgical style, sometimes language, sometimes ethnic traditions; these excuses cannot be accepted as valid reasons to divide the One True Church. Indeed, such variations have always had their place within the common Orthodox Tradition. They must–and easily can–be maintained within a unified Church. It is when they are used as divisive arguments that they serve as excuses to maintain the status quo in which we have buried ourselves over these years. We can wait no longer!309
Finally, the weakened position of SCOBA was also evident in its inability to respond decisively to the movement of hundreds of former evangelical Christians into the Orthodox Church.
Beginning as early as 1968, a number of evangelical Protestant pastors, many of whom were once associated with Campus Crusade for Christ, began to discuss together their movement toward the Orthodox Church. Formal contacts with various representatives of three Orthodox jurisdictions began in 1977. These discussions raised a number of questions related to Orthodox doctrine, liturgical practices, and polity. Finally, after much discussion in various quarters, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese unilaterally acted in 1987 to chrismate and to ordain the former evangelical clergy and to receive through chrismation about 2,000 believers gathered in about ten parishes. While most Orthodox leaders joyously welcomed the former evangelicals into the Orthodox Church, the manner in which they were received sparked new discussions and some measure of controversy.
As an organization, SCOBA had only a minor role in these momentous developments. As early as 1981, Reverend Peter Gillquist, the leader of the evangelical pastors, wrote to Archbishop Iakovos, the chairman of SCOBA, requesting guidance. While the matter was referred to the SCOBA Ecumenical Commission, no firm direction materialized. The evangelicals then had no other choice but to deal separately with particular jurisdictions. Clearly, the process of receiving the former evangelicals could have been smoother if SCOBA has been in a position to speak and to act in the name of the Orthodox Church. Throughout the entire process, however, SCOBA was able to provide only limited guidance.310
THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH
All of these historic controversies and events of the period between 1970 and 1990 shook the Orthodox Church in the United States and raised serious questions about its identity and mission in this country. Although the Russian Orthodox Metropolia and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese were the two jurisdictions that were the most profoundly affected by the controversies, all of the Orthodox jurisdictions were struggling with the same fundamental issue, although perhaps less publicly. This issue was the nature of the Orthodox Church in the United States.
For generations, it had become common for the Orthodox in America to view themselves as part of a diaspora. The Orthodox immigrants who came to the United States since the late nineteenth century were seen as people who had been dispersed from their homeland. In some cases they even viewed themselves and their children as exiles who found themselves in a wilderness that could never really be home. There was always going to be a longing for another place, which, of course, always appeared to be a better place.
The understanding of the Orthodox Church in this country was also colored by this perspective from the late nineteenth century. Each jurisdiction came to see itself as an extension of the mother church in this country. The fundamental purpose of the jurisdiction was to care for «its people.» This meant that a high priority was placed upon the preservation of the Old World language and culture. Far from being a church serving the people of this country, the Orthodox Church came to be seen as a diaspora church in which each particular jurisdiction was serving the needs of a particular ethnic group. It is no wonder that each jurisdiction often seemed to depict itself as a particular denomination. Indeed, some even appeared to have the characteristics of a sect.
The immediate consequences of this ethnocentric way of viewing the jurisdiction were threefold. First, movements toward greater unity of the jurisdictions were not encouraged, especially by those who saw their jurisdiction as an instrument designed to preserve a particular ethnic language or culture. The thrusts toward greater Orthodox unity became a threat to the ethnocentric view of the jurisdiction.
Second, there was little concern for mission. Most of the jurisdictions were inward-looking. They were concerned with survival and preservation. Orthodox leaders often made bold claims about the catholicity of the Orthodox Church and the flawless character of its faith. Yet, throughout the late nineteenth century and during much of the twentieth century, many of these same leaders had little regard for reaching out to others who were not part of their jurisdiction. The ethnic emphasis of most of the Orthodox jurisdictions appeared to be incompatible with a commitment to mission.
Finally, there was very little concern for the well-being of the wider society. During the 1950s many Orthodox worked diligently to have Orthodoxy recognized as a major faith in this country. Yet, the responsibility of the church to this society usually was ignored. Each jurisdiction tended to see itself as composed of people who were not really part of American society.
The controversies of the 1970s especially were a very public expression of a process to reaffirm the fundamental nature of the Orthodox Church in this country. This process has its roots in the developments of the Orthodox Church in the United States that occurred in the period following World War II. During this period, there were major changes in the demographics of membership. There were important developments in the area of religious education and liturgical life. There were grassroots movements encouraging greater unity for the sake of mission and witness. The discussions over the autocephaly of the Metropolia/Orthodox Church in the United States and the discussions over the greater use of the vernacular languages in worship in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese were serious and difficult. At a deeper level, however, these discussions witnessed the fact that concerns about the nature of the Orthodox Church in the United States had entered into a new stage of reflection and action.
For many Orthodox theologians, the use of the term diaspora began to appear inappropriate when used in reference to the church in this country. While the term may have had some sociological meaning, it distorted the fundamental conception of the church. Father Leonidas Contos, a theologian of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, addressed this point with boldness:
I wonder if the term «diaspora» is any longer descriptive of our situation Our numbers,
relative to the strength of the Mother Church, are so great, our life so ordered, our organizations so articulated, our identity so well-defined, our aims so coherent, above all our roots so deeply thrust in this congenial soil, that to regard ourselves as a «dispersion» in any literal sense of the term, at least, tends in very subtle ways to distort our sense of self.... For so long as we are conditioned in our polity and our cultural life, by the diaspora complex, however subconsciously, we will be inhibited in the fullest realization of our «church-hood.»311
This fundamental change in perspective also was going to affect other aspects of Orthodox Church life. There would be need for greater reflection on the relationship of the various jurisdictions to their mother church. There would be need for greater reflection on the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a unifying force in the church in America. There would be need for greater reflection on the missionary dimension of the church's life. There would be need for greater reflection with regard to the relationship of the church to the wider society. In the wake of the emotional and bitter debates of the 1970s, Orthodox theologians began to investigate these topics with greater urgency.312
A PAN-ORTHODOX RESPONSE
Despite the tension among the various autocephalous Orthodox churches that were created by the grant of autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America/Metropolia, the developments in America appear to have had a positive influence on the worldwide conciliar movement among the Orthodox. Some two years after the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1968, the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the Great and Holy Council met in Geneva on 15–28 July 1971. This group approved the publication of studies on aspects of the six topics approved by the Fourth Pan-Orthodox Conference. But, even more important, the commission recommended that the proposed First Pre-Conciliar Conference revise the list of study topics originally established in 1961.313
Between 1971 and 1976, the Ecumenical Patriarchate organized a number of theological meetings and sent delegations to all the autocephalous churches. The intent of the Patriarchate was to identify particular topics for common study that were directly related to the critical needs facing the Orthodox Church.
During this same period, Metropolitan Maximos of Sardis published his seminal book titled The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church. Coming from one of the most respected scholars of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the book dealt with a number of topics that had a direct bearing upon the development of the church in the so-called diaspora. The author cogently discussed the ancient canons that designated the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as the church responsible for overseeing the development of new local churches outside the territory of established autocephalous churches. The author also discussed the formal condemnation of ethnophylitism in 1872. This term refers to the organization of regional churches along ethnic lines rather than geographical lines. The author's elucidation of this practice clearly demonstrated that the present structure of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America was contrary to the best organizational principles of Orthodox ecclesiology.314
When the First Preconciliar Conference was held in Chambesy (Geneva) in 21–28 November 1976, the representatives of the regional Orthodox churches formally approved a new list of topics that would be studied prior to the convocation of the Great and Holy Council. While this list included themes proposed earlier, it also reflected concern for the recent developments in America. The themes proposed were:
The Orthodox diaspora
Autocephaly and how it is proclaimed
Autonomy and how it is proclaimed
Diptychs (the official ranking of churches)
The question of a common calendar
Impediments to marriage
Adjustments of the rules of fasting to the conditions of the present day
Relation of the Orthodox churches to the rest of the Christian world
Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement
10. Contribution of the local Orthodox churches to the promotion of the ideals of peace, freedom, and brotherhood among peoples, and to the eradication of racial discrimination315
After studies undertaken by the Preconciliar Commission, the Second Pre-Conciliar Conference was held in 1982. It approved statements on the fifth and the sixth topics. The Third Pre-Conciliar Conference met in 1986 and approved statements on the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth topics. This process of deliberation set the stage for the Pre-Conciliar Commission to deal with the remaining three topics.316
The Pre-Conciliar Commission began its discussion of the Orthodox diaspora at its meeting on 10–17 November 1990 and continued its discussion at the meeting of 7–13 November 1993. At these meetings the commission produced an important statement that contains recommendations that have been submitted to the churches. The statement indicates that the autocephalous churches recognize the critical need to address the situation of the developing Orthodox Church in places such as North and South America and Western Europe. In this text, the commission states that «every Orthodox Church is unanimous that the problem of the Orthodox diaspora be resolved as quickly as possible and that it be organized in a way that is in accordance with Orthodox ecclesiological tradition and the canonical praxis of the Orthodox Church.»317
The report of the Pre-Conciliar Preparatory Commission was warmly greeted by both theologians and knowledgeable laypersons in this country. While many would have liked the Pre-Conciliar Commission to be even more direct with regard to the American situation, there was a sense that the representatives of the autocephalous and autonomous churches recognized the need formally to encourage greater administrative unity. The direction of the Pre-Conciliar Commission was in harmony with perspectives that had been advanced by many American Orthodox theologians from a wide variety of jurisdictions. The difficulties engendered by the controversies originating in the 1970s had not completely subsided. Yet, it appeared that many Orthodox leaders both in the United States and in other parts of the world had come to recognize that the organizational development of the Orthodox Church in this country demanded greater attention and that a resolution had to be found.318
* * *
Constance Tarasar and John Erickson, eds., Orthodox America: 1794–1976 (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1975), pp. 183–185.
Serafim Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America (New York: Saints Boris and Gleb Press, 1973), pp. 42–45.
Ibid, pp. 55–59.
«Letter from Archbishop Alexander to Metropolitan Platon, April 10, 1930.» Archives, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Tarasar and Erickson, Orthodox America, p. 285.
Ibid, p. 263.
Letter from Patriarch Alexis of Moscow to Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, August 25,1965, One Church 20:1–3 (1966): 38; «Declaration of Metropolitan Nikodim at the Pan-Orthodox Conference in Geneva,» 9–15 June 1968, One Church 22:5 (1968): 22–23.
Tarasar and Erickson, Orthodox America, p. 269.
Ibid., p. 263.
Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, p. 82.
Ibid., pp. 84–86.
Ibid., p. 87.
Tarasar and Erickson, Orthodox America, p. 264.
Ibid, p. 277.
Ibid., pp. 294–300.
Ibid., p. 313.
Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, p. 95.
Tarasar and Erickson, Orthodox America, pp. 305–306.
John Erickson, «Autocephaly in Orthodox Canonical Literature to the Thirteenth Century,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 15:1/2 (1971): 28–41.
Alexander Schmemann, «A Meaningful Storm,» St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 15:1/2 (1971): 3.
See Autocephaly: The Orthodox Church in America (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1971); Panagiotes Trembellis, The Autocephaly of the Metropolia in America (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Press, 1973); Russian Autocephaly and Orthodoxy in America (New York: Orthodox Observer Press, 1972).
Autocephaly: The Orthodox Church in America, pp. 42–43.
Russian Autocephaly, p. 68.
George Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1976), pp. 230–238.
Archbishop Iakovos, «Address to the Archdiocesan Council, January 23, 1979,» Archives, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.
Archbishop Iakovos, Toward the Decade 1970–1980 (New York: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 1970), p. 22.
Decisions of the 20th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress (New York: Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 1970), p. 55.
Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan, pp. 248–252.
«Encyclical of Patriarch Athenagoras, September 12, 1970,» Archives, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese; Papaioannou, From Mars Hill to Manhattan, p. 253.
Basil Vasiliades, «Ecumenical Patriarchate,» Orthodox Observer 41 (1975): 1.
Spiro Vryonis, A Brief History of the Greek Orthodox Community of St. George in Memphis (Malibou, Tenn.: Undena, 1982), p. 119.
Charter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, November 29,1977 (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1977), p. 2.
«Letter from Patriarch Athenagoras to Archbishop Iakovos, December, 1970,» Archives, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese; Surrency, The Quest for Orthodox Church Unity in America, pp. A174-A175.
John Meyendorff, Vision of Unity (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987), p. 78.
Peter Gillquist, Metropolitan Philip (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), pp. 181–190.
«Encyclical of Metropolitan Theodosius and Metropolitan Philip, Great Lent, 1989,» The Word 18:3 (1989): 3.
See Peter Gillquist, Coming Home (Brentwood, Tenn.: Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1989); see also Sarah Loft, Converts Respond (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1984); Theodore Bobosh, ed., Come and See: Encountering the Orthodox Church (Syosset, N.Y.: Orthodox Church in America, 1983).
Leonidas Contos, 2001: Tne Church in Crisis (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), p. 24.
Ibid., p. 26.
Stanley Harakas, Something Is Stirring in World Orthodoxy (Minneapolis: Light and Life, 1978), pp. 7–11.
Metropolitan Maximos of Sardis, The Oecumenical Patriarchate in the Orthodox Church (Thessaloniki: Patriarchal Institute, 1976).
Harakas, Something Is Stirring in World Orthodoxy, pp. 15–17.
«Second Pre-Conciliar Conference,» Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate 1 (1983): 62; «Third Pre-Conciliar Pan Orthodox Conference,» Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate 2 (1987): 48.
Thomas FitzGerald, «Commission Discusses «Diaspora,»» Orthodox Theological Society in America Bulletin, Series II, 3 (Summer 1991): 2.
Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission, «Orthodox Diaspora,» Orthodox Theological Society in America Bulletin, Series II, 3 (Summer 1991): 3.